Going away during the holidays has become a must in today's society. We are traveling more and more, to places that may be close to or very far off from home. These journeys and stays obviously have an impact on our environment. Here are some easy tips to enjoy your holiday while respecting the planet.
Before your departure
Everything begins even before your departure. Whether you are leaving for several weeks or just a few days, it is preferable to adopt certain useful (and economical) habits.
Unplug all your electrical appliances. If you can, empty your freezer and your fridge beforehand so that you can leave them unplugged while you're away, as such appliances are the most energy-consuming. On the other hand, if your freezer isn't empty and you must leave it plugged in, fill it up completely, even if it is with empty boxes; this is because a freezer cools down empty space, so the fuller it is, the less it consumes.
Turn off the heating (by the way, if you are going on summer vacation, it should already have been off ages ago...). If you are leaving in winter and wish to prevent your home from getting too cold, set the thermostat to a minimum (e.g. 10-12°C, which means 50-54°F).
Make sure all your doors and windows are shut - not just to keep the burglars out - and check the insulation as well.
Shut off the water supply: a leak would hurt your wallet just as much as it would the planet.
No need to travel far
Spending a holiday close to home can also be a chance to rediscover the region or visit charming and festive tourist spots that we might not necessarily think of going to the rest of the year.
Country spots, rivers, lakes, walks, events organized during the holidays, etc are just a few of the many possibilities. In this way, you can avoid spending too much money and fuel on transport while experiencing a change of scenery by doing things that you don't usually do.
You could also choose places that are relatively "close" to home (e.g. Andalusia or Eastern Europe if you live in France) rather than destinations that are much further off (e.g. Phuket, Latin America, etc.)
The art of traveling
For those who choose a far-off destination but still wish to take action for the environment, it is better to travel by train (if possible), as this is by far the most ecological transportation mode. And the earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper it is.
Plane journeys that last fewer than 4 hours are the most harmful since a plane consumes a great deal during takeoff, and short distances are synonymous with a greater number of takeoffs. Planes produce the greatest amount of carbon dioxide per person on such journeys, followed by cars, trains and buses.
Taking a high speed train between Paris and Marseille doesn't pollute more than a 25 km trip to and from work by car. Besides, you can always offset your co2 emissions.
Choose eco-friendly accommodation
More and more accommodations (hotels, camps, etc.) are changing their bad habits to better respect the environment.
They pay more attention to water and energy consumption, limit their production of waste and hire their staff among the local population.
Such accommodations also try to create a wholesome environment, for instance, by using cleaning agents that better respect the environment.
Find out more before booking and choose those that offer the most number of environmental guarantees. If not, choose small, local hotels or camp sites rather than huge resorts that are the biggest wasters of water and energy.
If you don't normally your towels or sheets everyday at home, then why should you when on holiday?
Therefore, when you stay at a hotel, insist that your towels and sheets not be replaced on a daily basis.
Indeed, some hotels are already observing such practices.
We sometimes forget certain good habits while on holiday... but even though we may be on vacation, the planet isn't!
For example, remember to switch off the lights when you leave a room or turn off the tap while you're brushing your teeth.
Just because your electricity or water consumption is included in the price doesn't mean that you have the right to be wasteful.
Similarly, don't throw bits of paper and other rubbish; respect the places you visit (forests, beaches, historic sites, etc.), just as you would your garden. Use a bin or keep your trash in your bag until you find one.
There are many plus points of having a digital camera and there is no need for me to list them one by one.
But have you ever thought about the impact that these devices have on ecology? There are no toxic chemical products involved and since you only print photos that you are satisfied with, there is no paper wastage.
Local transportation can be a very attractive option if you want to visit town areas or go to the beach - there is no need for you to look for your way in a town that you're not familiar with, and no need to spend hours searching for a parking spot (nor spend any money on this), and you won't have to get into an oven-like car in the late afternoon.
Given the price of fuel, public transportation is also more economical. Incidentally, some hotels and camps offer regular shuttle services towards the city center or the beach.
In the same way, you could also get around on foot or on a bicycle... a bit of exercise before you hit the hot sandy beaches will do you good.
Everyone loves buying souvenirs to bring home as a reminder of their vacation.
But there is no reason why you shouldn't check where such gifts come from. After all, there's nothing very Spanish in buying a made-in-China T shirt in Spain...
By favoring local products, you will be helping the regional economy at the same time as getting a nice souvenir for yourself.
Whether you're at home or on vacation, a few simple ecological gestures can make a difference.
Just because you're a tourist doesn't mean that you can do everything and anything you want. Let's not forget that respect for oneself also comes out of respect for others.
Holidays are a chance for us to visit some wonderful places; let's try to preserve them in their original state, for the sake of those who live there as well as for our own pleasure.
San Francisco bridge
Picture found on http://www.flickr.com/photos/88626537@N00/511888068/
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